In June, once again the footballing world will come to a relative standstill as the 21st World Cup kicks off in Russia. The previous 20 editions of the largest sporting event in the world have been presided over by 16 countries as host nation thus far.  Just 8 countries have won a World Cup, with Brazil holding the record of 5 titles off the back of an appearance in every single tournament, the only nation to achieve this. Germany and Italy (4 titles each), Argentina and Uruguay (2 titles each), and England, France and Spain (1 title each) complete the rest of the list.

FIFA Soccer World Cup Guide

It will be a tournament of several firsts; it’s the first World Cup hosted by Russia. Iceland and Panama are both making their World Cup debut appearances, the former being the smallest nation in population terms to ever achieve qualification to the tournament. It will be the first tournament that allows an additional, fourth substitution to be made in extra time. Significantly, it will be the first tournament to feature the use of video assistant referees (VAR).

The 2018 edition will feature some long-awaited returns to the tournament, especially from the African continent.  Nearly 30 years have passed since the world footballing stage has seen Egypt (the most successful nation in respect of African continental titles). Morocco make their first appearance since 1998, and Senegal make their 2nd World Cup appearance following a superb debut effort in 2002. Of all those nations qualified though, the longest absence from the tournament to be ended is that of Peru, who make their first World Cup appearance since 1982.

Qualifying, of course, does tend to create shocks and surprises, and 2018 feels considerably more severe than other tournaments in this respect. The most notable absentees are 4 time champions Italy (missing their first tournament in 60 years), 3 time runners up Netherlands, and African heavyweights Ghana and Ivory Coast. Bizarrely, 4 of the reigning continental champions also failed to qualify, being African champions Cameroon, South American champions Chile, Oceania champions New Zealand, and North / Central American champions USA.

FIFA Soccer World Cup Hosts

The host nation itself is a country varied in landscape and biomes; it’s the home of Lake Baikal, the deepest on the planet, and the home of the Volga river, the longest in Europe. It’s home to the vast expanse of Siberian forests, and the snowy heights of the Ural and Caucasus mountain ranges. It’s a huge country, spanning across 11 time zones and 17 million square kilometres. It’s a country steeped in history and achievement, featuring several Nobel Prize winners.

Staduims at the FIFA Soccer World Cup

In World Cup terms though, Russia’s main function as hosts will be manifested by the 11 cities that play host to the 64 matches of the tournament. As is the usual format, the main stadia will feature most of the matches:

Figure 1: Source –

Stadium City Capacity Number of Matches Notable Matches
Ekaterinburg Arena Yekaterinburg 35,696 4 Group Stage matches Egypt vs Uruguay, Group A
Kalingrad Stadium Kalingrad 35,212 4 Group Stage matches England vs Belgium, Group G
Kazan Arena Kazan 45,379 4 Group Stage matches

2 Knockout matches

Luzniki Stadium Moscow 81,000 4 Group Stage matches

3 Knockout matches

Opening match and Final
Otkritie Arena Moscow 45,360 4 Group Stage matches

1 Knockout match

Serbia vs Brazil, Group E
Nizhny Novgorod Stadium Nizhny Novgorod 44,899 4 Group Stage matches

2 Knockout matches

Rostov Arena Rostov-on-Don 45,000 4 Group Stage matches

1 Knockout match

Round of 16
Krestovsky Stadium St Petersburg 68,134 4 Group Stage matches

3 Knockout matches

Russia vs Egypt, Group A
Cosmos Arena Samara 45,568 4 Group Stage matches

2 Knockout matches

Mordovia Arena Saransk 44,442 4 Group Stage matches Iran vs Portugal, Group B
Fisht Stadium Sochi 47,659 4 Group Stage matches

2 Knockout matches

Portugal vs Spain, Group B
Volgograd Arena Volgograd 44,918 4 Group Stage matches Japan vs Poland, Group H


FIFA Soccer World Cup Champions

Even though a tournament spanning 32 countries (not to mention the total of 75 countries who have contested the previous 20 editions) suggests a massive spread of potential winners, the list of teams that typically find their way into title contention has been thus far a very short list. 2018, on the surface, should be little different. Even though France (1998) and Spain (2010) are relatively recent first-time champions, both teams have had a relatively persistent tag of underachievement that has followed them down the years, and this is highlighted by France’s 5 semifinal appearances historically, which matches the record of South American giants Argentina and Uruguay.

Overall, the tournament has been broadly dominated by the 8 sides who’ve won the tournament, particularly Brazil, Germany, Italy and Argentina:

Team Champions Runners Up Semifinalists
Brazil 5 (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002) 2 (1950, 1998) 11
Germany 4 (1954, 1974, 1990, 2014) 4 (1966, 1982, 1986, 2002) 13
Italy 4 (1930, 1934, 1982, 2006) 2 (1970, 1994) 8
Argentina 2 (1978, 1986) 3 (1930, 1990, 2014) 5
Uruguay 2 (1938, 1950) 0 5
France 1 (1998) 1 (2006) 5
England 1 (1966) 0 2
Spain 1 (2010) 0 2

Winners and then Exit

One interesting occupational hazard to note is that of defending champions. Brazil in 2006 were the last defending champion who ensured they didn’t exit the tournament following their victory at the Group Stage:

Team Won the World Cup Record in the very next World Cup
Spain 2010 2014 – eliminated at Group Stage
Italy 2006 2010 – eliminated at Group Stage
Brazil 2002 2006 – eliminated at Quarterfinals
France 1998 2002 – eliminated at Group Stage
Brazil 1994 1998 – eliminated at Final


Another historical anecdote to consider is that of location. Brazil remain the only side outside of Europe to have managed a win on European soil. Germany became the first European side to win in South America with their victory over Lionel Messi’s Argentina 4 years ago:

Location World Cups held Champion from Europe Champion from South America
Europe 10 9 1
South America 5 1 4
North America 3 3
Africa 1 1
Asia 1 1


FIFA Soccer World Cup 2018: Overview

The charm of the World Cup though, is its relative unpredictability and magic. For example, very few will anticipate, let alone expect a first round exit for Germany in 2018 as defending champions, but similar sentiment surrounded Spain, Italy and France in their recent exits at the Group Stage. Few expected the giant-killing run of hosts South Korea to the semifinal in 2002 (beating Portugal, Italy and Spain en route). Few anticipated the 7-1 demolition by Germany of hosts Brazil in 2014.  It’s this magic that always makes the betting activity around the tournament that much more intriguing, because there always seems to be a dark horse that emerges, or a giant unexpectedly toppled.

Just as a fun bet – Germany are currently valued at 7.00 to exit at the Group Stage. But they’re also the most prominent semifinalists in the history of the tournament! So maybe a semifinal exit at 4.50 is the safer bet.

In terms of first impressions of the outright winner of the tournament, as at the time of writing, the odds are once again centered upon familiar names. The tentative media sentiment following Brazil hasn’t affected expectations of their competitiveness in Russia 2018. Belgium’s star-studded cast is also well favoured to make a potentially strong impression at this year’s tournament.

Outright Winner of the World Cup 2018
Germany – 4.50 Brazil – 4.75 France – 5.50
Spain – 6.50 Argentina – 9.00 Belgium – 10.00


Soccer World Cup Group Previews and Predictions

Soccer World Cup Preview – Group A (Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Uruguay)
Soccer World Cup Preview – Group B (Portugal, Spain, Morocco, IR Iran)
Soccer World Cup Preview – Group C (France, Australia, Peru, Denmark)
Soccer World Cup Preview – Group D (Argentina, Iceland, Croatia, Nigeria)
Soccer World Cup Preview – Group E (Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia)
Soccer World Cup Preview – Group F (Germany, Mexico, Sweden, South Korea)
Soccer World Cup Preview – Group G (Belgium, Panama, Tunisia, England)
Soccer World Cup Preview – Group H (Poland, Senegal, Colombia, Japan)

Of African interest is the bet for Best African Country. Where Morocco and Tunisia have been drawn in much more difficult groups, Senegal, Egypt and Nigeria have relatively different circumstances. Draw your own conclusions as to their prospects for progression in the tournament, but keep in mind that Egypt, regardless whether they win their group or finish 2nd, will likely have a dire choice between Spain and European champions Portugal as their most likely opponents for the Round of 16:

Team Possible opponents in Round of 16
Egypt – 2.50 Spain / Portugal
Senegal – 2.00 Belgium / England
Nigeria – 2.50 France / Denmark


A highly intriguing bet is that for the Golden Ball (the World Cup’s best player). Often the winner is responsible for guiding their team deep into the competition, The usual suspects are present in this list, but of much greater interest is the options from Spain, Germany and Belgium, who could be attractive outside bets:

Team Best priced option for Golden Ball
Brazil Neymar – 6.00
Argentina Lionel Messi – 6.75
Portugal Cristiano Ronaldo – 11.00
France Antoine Griezmann – 16.75
Belgium Kevin De Bruyne – 20.00
Spain David Silva – 23.00
Germany Thomas Muller – 24.00


Lastly, the Golden Boot award is one of the most difficult to call, especially given the many options of talented forwards to choose from. An important observation – with the exception of Oleg Salenko in 1994 (3 matches), no Golden Boot winner has ever played less than 4 matches in a single tournament in its history. This record increases to at least 5 matches when excluding the earlier shorter spans of the tournament involving less than 24 teams. Every Golden Boot winner since 1998 has managed to progress to the quarterfinal as a minimum. This makes the options of Ronaldo or Kane more complicated, since their sides don’t have the best track record in progressing deep into the tournament:

Outright Winner of Golden Boot in World Cup 2018
Lionel Messi – 8.25 Neymar – 9.25 Cristiano Ronaldo – 12.00
Timo Werner – 13.00 Antoine Griezmann – 13.00 Harry Kane – 15.00
Gabriel De Jesus – 16.75 Romelu Lukaku – 17.50 Alvaro Morata – 21.00
Luis Suarez – 22.00 Sergio Aguero – 23.00 Thomas Muller – 23.00


FIFA Soccer World Cup Groups

At the Soccer World Cup tehre is a total of 8 Groups with 4 teams in each.

Group A  Group B  Group C Group D Group E Group F  Group G  Group H
Russia Portugal France Argentina Brazil Germany Belgium Poland
Saudi Arabia Spain Australia Iceland Switzerland Mexico Panama Senegal
Egypt Morocco Peru Croatia Costa Rica Sweden Tunisia Colombia
Uruguay IR Iran Denmark Nigeria Serbia Korea Republic England Japan



Soccer World Cup Matches

Below are the fixtures for the Fifa Soccer World Cup in Russia.

Date Teams  Venue
Thursday, June 14 Russia vs Saudi Arabia Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow
Friday, June 15 Egypt vs Uruguay Ekaterinburg
Friday, June 15 Morocco vs Iran St Petersburg
Friday, June 15 Portugal vs Spain Sochi
Saturday, June 16 France vs Australia Kazan
Saturday, June 16 Argentina vs Iceland Spartak Stadium, Moscow
Saturday, June 16 Peru vs Denmark Saransk
Saturday, June 16 Croatia vs Nigeria Kaliningrad
Sunday, June 17 Costa Rica vs Serbia Samara
Sunday, June 17 Germany vs Mexico Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow
Sunday, June 17 Brazil vs Switzerland Rostov-on-Don
Monday, June 18 Sweden v Korea Republic Nizhny Novgorod
Monday, June 18 Belgium vs Panama Sochi
Monday, June 18 Tunisia vs England Volgograd
Tuesday, June 19 Poland vs Senegal Spartak Stadium, Moscow
Tuesday, June 19 Colombia vs Japan Saransk
Tuesday, June 19 Russia vs Egypt St Petersburg
Wednesday, June 20 Portugal vs Morocco Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow
Wednesday, June 20 Uruguay vs Saudi Arabia Rostov-on-Don
Wednesday, June 20 Iran vs Spain Kazan
Thursday, June 21 France vs Peru Ekaterinburg
Thursday, June 21 Denmark vs Australia Samara
Thursday, June 21 Argentina vs Croatia Nizhny Novgorod
Friday, June 22 Brazil vs Costa Rica St Petersburg
Friday, June 22 Nigeria vs Iceland Volgograd
Friday, June 22 Serbia vs Switzerland Kaliningrad
Saturday, June 23 Belgium vs Tunisia Spartak Stadium, Moscow
Saturday, June 23 Germany vs Sweden Sochi
Saturday, June 23 Korea Republic vs Mexico Rostov-on-Don
Sunday, June 24 England vs Panama Nizhny Novgorod
Sunday, June 24 Japan vs Senegal Ekaterinburg
Sunday, June 24 Poland vs Colombia Kazan
Monday, June 25 Uruguay vs Russia Samara
Monday, June 25 Saudi Arabia vs Egypt Volgograd
Monday, June 25 Spain vs Morocco Kaliningrad
Monday, June 25 Iran vs Portugal Saransk
Tuesday, June 26 Denmark vs France Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow
Tuesday, June 26 Australia vs Peru Sochi
Tuesday, June 26 Nigeria vs Argentina St Petersburg
Tuesday, June 26 Iceland vs Croatia Rostov-on-Don
Wednesday, June 27 Korea Republic vs Germany Kazan
Wednesday, June 27 Mexico vs Sweden Ekaterinburg
Wednesday, June 27 Serbia vs Brazil Spartak Stadium, Moscow
Wednesday, June 27 Switzerland vs Costa Rica Nizhny Novgorod
Thursday, June 28 Japan vs Poland Volgograd
Thursday, June 28 Senegal vs Colombia Samara
Thursday, June 28 England vs Belgium Kaliningrad
Thursday, June 28 Panama vs Tunisia Saransk

Please note – odds mentioned above are subject to change, so always check the latest published odds to be fully certain before betting.

For specialized and comprehensive Soccer World Cup Betting either in house and/or through our online sports betting facilities, visit Keith Ho BetXchange for the most competitive prices and the largest soccer betting options available in South Africa.




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